Yesterday was a strange day, eighty degrees in the morning, fifty-five by afternoon. It was also the last day of testimony in the death penalty case against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.The defense called as their final witness Sister Helen Prejean of “Dead Man Walking” fame. She testified about several meetings with Tsarnaev during which he once said, “No one deserves to suffer like they did.” Whether that was an expression of remorse, or merely regret is not clear.
Thursday was a short day at the Tsarnaev trial last week as both sides met with the judge in chambers to discuss whether and to what extent Sister Helen Prejean will be allowed to testify. For much of the time nothing happened in the courtroom, though many tweets were read and sent. The previous day’s witness was brought back to the stand to complete his testimony, but that’s all.
I profited of the free time to ride a Hubway bike to the North End where I had an espresso and Italian ice and did the little sketch below.
There was a short delay this morning as the court set up a video conference call so that a Tsarnaev relative could testify from Kazakhstan. The government wanted the judge to tell the jury that the oath taken by the witness was meaningless since there would be no way to pursue perjury charges in Kazakhstan. Judge O’Toole declined for now.
Not a lot happening at the Boston Marathon bombing trial today. We heard from the roommate of Tamerlan’s future wife, a couple of friends of Dzhokhar’s, the owner of a Russian bookstore, a Russian psychiatrist who treated Tsarnaev’s father, a wrestling coach and a Princeton professor who is an expert in all things Chechen.
Tsarnaev’s relatives, who arrived from Russia nine days ago, finally took the witness stand today and the testimony was often tearful. Tsarnaev, who has betrayed not the slightest emotion or hint of remorse during the excruciating testimony of the bombing victims, dabbed his eyes with a tissue when his aged aunt Patimat sobbed so uncontrollably she was unable to testify.
I immediately made plans to secure a bicycle and take advantage of the opportunity to explore Boston, but it was not to be. I was called back to the courthouse for the arraignment of an ex-FBI charged with perjury in the Whitey Bulger trial.One consolation, a group of musicians started playing on the main floor of the courthouse. I did this sketch from above.
Finally done with the arraignment, I headed to the hotel anticipating a quiet evening, maybe dinner with a friend, before flying back to Baltimore the next morning. But no, instead I had to rush off to Newark for the guilty plea Friday morning of Gov. Christie ally – not Kirstie Alley – David Wildstein in the Bridgegate scandal.
If it sounds like I’m complaining, I’m not. I really love this last minute stuff.
Until now the focus of the defense had been almost exclusively on Dzhokhar’s older brother Tamerlane.Today we heard from a paramedic who worked on Tamerlan shortly before he died who testified the the older Tsarnaev was combative, even when mortally wounded. And then from a paramedic who treated Dzhokhar after he climbed out of the boat and surrendered. She said Dzhokhar put up no fight.After that it was a string of character witnesses – teachers and friends who knew a different Tsarnaev than the one sitting in the courtroom today. All of them were on the stand a very short time.
So it wasn’t an uninteresting day, but nothing unexpected. I’ll just post the rest of today’s drawings and call it a day.
The humanity of victims caring for each other in the middle of the bombing mayhem contrasted with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s complete disregard and seeming lack of compassion as he just sat there. The last witness to testify yesterday as the government concluded its death penalty case was Steven Woolfenden. Steve was in front of the Forum restaurant with his son Leo in a stroller when the second bomb went off. They were right next to the Richard family as they tried to move away from the first bomb blast. Tsarnaev brushed past Woolfenden after he dropped his bomb and hurried away.
After the blast, Woolfenden, his leg blown off and his son taken to an ambulance, saw Denise Richard bent over her dying son Martin’s eviscerated body. He put a hand on her shoulder. She turned and asked him if he was okay.
More heartbreaking testimony today, from the family of MIT officer Sean Collier and Lingzi Lu’s aunt. The jury also heard from two more victims who suffered serious injuries. One, a ballroom dancer who lost a leg, glared at Tsarnaev as she left the witness stand.
The government also introduced into evidence the video still of Tsarnaev flipping the bird that was shown to the jury during opening statement. That led to the defense getting in the entire video of Tsarnaev in the courthouse holding cell. It shows the defendant primping his hair and mugging for the camera as he first flashes two fingers in a Vee and then the now infamous single digit.